Chattanooga settles police beating lawsuit; Adam Tatum to receive $125,000 (with video)

Chattanooga settles police beating lawsuit; Adam Tatum to receive $125,000 (with video)

December 11th, 2013 by Todd South and Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

POLL: Is the Adam Tatum settlement fair?

Adam Tatum

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The legal morass sparked by the beating of a federal inmate at the hands of two Chattanooga police officers has stretched over nearly a year, but city officials hope to end it by Jan. 1.

A settlement has been reached with Adam Tatum, who suffered two broken legs in the beating and had sued the city for $50 million. On Monday, Tatum agreed to drop his federal lawsuit in exchange for $125,000.

Still pending are two lawsuits, one filed by Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley, the officers fired over the beating, and a city appeal of a judge's decision ordering the Chattanooga Police Department to reinstate them.

City Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem said Tuesday that he sees an effort on the city's part to resolve the entire case by the first of the year.

Attorneys on both sides of the case said they couldn't comment on whether a settlement was in sight for the other cases.

It took nine hours of mediation on Monday to reach an agreement on Tatum's lawsuit. Tatum attorney Robin Flores said the city will pay $112,500 of the amount, Erlanger hospital will pay $2,500 and the remaining $10,000 is coming from an undisclosed source.

Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved the city's payment.

The incident occurred on June 14, 2012, when police responded to a call from the Salvation Army halfway house at 800 McCallie Ave.

Video footage showed that Tatum brandished a knife and began kicking the door of an office in the building. When officers arrived, Tatum resisted arrest.

He was beaten with batons and shot with pepper spray. By the time it was over, he had a broken nose, black eyes and multiple breaks in both legs.

Adam Cooley, left, and Sean Emmer

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd fired Emmer and Cooley in November 2012 for using what he called excessive force.

Flores filed the $50 million federal lawsuit against the city in January 2013. He later added nearly two dozen other police officers to the filing.

The officers' lawyers argued that the pair followed proper procedure and showed that Tatum was on cocaine at the time, armed with a knife and threatening other halfway house residents.

In September, an administrative law judge from Nashville ruled that the pair should be reinstated and receive back pay.

City officials appealed that ruling to Hamilton County Circuit Court and were granted a stay to not reinstate Emmer and Cooley. That lawsuit is still pending in Circuit Court, and no hearing date had been set as of Tuesday.

In November, Emmer and Cooley sued the city for $500,000 in a federal employment discrimination lawsuit claiming that the city imposed "an untrue and unjust stigma upon" them professionally and personally, which has "denied them the freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities."

That lawsuit was still pending Tuesday.

Federal authorities found no prosecutable offenses against the pair. A Hamilton County grand jury declined to indict the policemen, and an administrative law judge ordered that they be reinstated to their jobs after a three-day hearing.

Flores said his client wanted to end the ordeal, and he commended city officials for being willing to resolve it without a trial.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.